Robert Jefferson Breckinridge

Robert Jefferson Breckinridge (March 8, 1800 – December 27, 1871) was a politician and Presbyterian minister. He was a member of the Breckinridge family of Kentucky, the son of Senator John Breckinridge.

A restless youth, Breckinridge was suspended from Princeton University for fighting, and following his graduation from Union College in 1819, was prone to engage in a lifestyle of partying and revelry. But, he was admitted to the bar in 1824 and elected to the Kentucky General Assembly in 1825. A serious illness and the death of a child in 1829 prompted him to turn to religion, and he became an ordained minister in 1832.

That year Breckinridge accepted the call to pastor the Second Presbyterian Church of Baltimore, Maryland. While at the church, he became involved in a number of theological debates. During the Old School-New School Controversy within the Presbyterian Church in the 1830s, Breckinridge became a hard-line member of the Old School faction, and played an influential role in the ejection of several churches in 1837. He was rewarded for his stances by being elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church's General Assembly in 1841.

After a brief stint as president of Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, Breckinridge returned to Kentucky, where he pastored the First Presbyterian church of Lexington, Kentucky, and was appointed superintendent of public education by Governor William Owsley. The changes he effected in this office brought a tenfold increase in public school attendance and led to him being called the father of the public school system in Kentucky. He left his post as superintendent after six years to become a professor at Danville Theological Seminary in Danville, Kentucky.

As the sectional conflict leading up to the Civil War escalated, Breckinridge was put in the unusual position of being a slaveholder who opposed slavery. The tragic scenario of brother against brother literally played out in Breckinridge's family, his sons fighting on both sides during the war. Following the war, Breckinridge retired to his home in Danville, where he died on December 27, 1871. Provided by Wikipedia
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